Hospital associated infections (HAI) are all too common with one in twenty-five admitted patients developing at least one. With statistics showing that nearly 100,000 patients die every year after contracting an HAI, patients often seek justice and compensation from hospitals. Infections often develop when medical devices are not properly sanitized or when hospital staff is negligent of patient safety regulations.
When trying to determine who is at fault when a patient develops an infection during their stay, the lines can often blur. For this reason, we have developed a set of question and answers to assist you in answering any questions you may have.
What is an HAI and how does this affect me?
A hospital-associated infection is an infection that develops during a patient’s stay in a healthcare facility while treating another condition. HAIs can be obtained in hospitals or any related healthcare facilities. Infections are usually contracted by exposure to germs due to a disregard for sanitization or cut corners. Patients are admitted to hospitals under the impression that they will be taken care of and to improve their condition, however, the risk of developing these infections can cause a patient to worry. Patients and family members alike should pay close attention to the actions of the hospital staff as well as their own by following hospital suggestions for sanitizing. Choosing the right hospital that has been highly rated can also decreases a patients risk of HAI.
What kind of infections can patients develop?
Hospitals are constantly filled with germs and while the staff works hard to maintain a safe and healthy environment, cutting corners and leaving tasks incomplete gives germs the opportunity to grow and multiply. Since these infections are preventable, all measures should be taken in order to prevent them. Sick patients are at a considerably higher risk of infection since their immune system is not functioning to its fullest potential. Infections can vary depending on a person’s situation but the most common infections are as follows,
- Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) – a central line is a catheter that is place in a large vein in the neck, chest or groin that injects medication and fluids directly into the bloodstream. These veins are close to the heart which makes it prone to serious infection if safety protocols are not strictly followed. Patients often contract CLABSI when bacteria or viruses enter the bloodstream during insertion, line checking or when nurses are changing the dressing.
- Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI) – a urinary tract infection involves any part of the urinary system and is caused by prolonged use of urinary catheters. Catheters, which are inserted into the bladder to drain urine, should not be used any longer than medically necessary.
- Surgical Site Infection (SSI) – SSI occurs in the part of the body were a surgery took and range from skin infections at the site of incision to the organs and implants operated on. Many contributing factors can lead to SSIs including ineffective site preparation, excessive operating room traffic and inadequate wound dressing.
- Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP) – VAP is a lung infection caused by germs entering the ventilator through the tubes inserted in the mouth or neck. Lung infections can pose serious risk for patients and require immediate attention.
Whose fault is it?
Hospitals can and should be held accountable when infections are the direct result of carelessness or inattention to sanitizing procedures. Most HAIs are preventable if the proper precautions are followed. The hospital would be considered at fault if they did not administer immediate treatment or if the infection was not monitored closely enough and the condition worsened. If the patient did not suffer from any substantial injuries, there would not be grounds for a lawsuit.
Can I still file a lawsuit after leaving the hospital?
If a patient develops an infection after leaving the hospital, medical records can be examined to determine is proper protocols were followed or if the infection is the fault of the hospital and staff at which point they would be held accountable.
If a patient decides to file a lawsuit after suffering from an HAI, they would only have grounds to file a lawsuit if the patient suffered substantial loss – long-term or permanent injury or disability or death.
Who should I contact to handle my case?
Medical malpractice lawsuits can very sensitive and intricate cases and therefore patients should seek the assistance of an attorney with expertise in personal injury law. They will be able to review a case and determine if a patient is eligible for compensation.